Saints Start 1-0 After 20-18 Nail-Biting Win Over Olivet Nazarene in Home Opener

Photo Courtesy of Laura Harvey
Photo Courtesy of Laura Harvey

ADRIAN, Mich. -- The Siena Heights football team made a big stop on a two-point conversation late in the fourth quarter to hold on to a 20-18 lead and earn the first win of the 2019 season. Nick Stalworth (Clarkston, Mich.) led the Saints defense with 14 total tackles in the victory.

THE BASICS

Final Score: Siena Heights 20, Olivet Nazarene 18

Location: Adrian, Michigan (O'Laughlin Stadium)

Records: Siena Heights (1-0), Olivet Nazarene (0-1)

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Saints got on the board early in the first quarter, scoring on a 12 play, 75-yard drive after going three-and-out on their first possession. The drive was capped by a 27-yard touchdown connection from Tyler Knecht (King Mills, Ohio) to Timothy Brown (Detroit, Mich.) in which Brown tipped the ball up to himself before securing the football in the back of the endzone. Anthony Secchi (Sterling Heights, Mich.) completed the extra point and Siena Heights took a 7-0 lead with 3:01 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Tigers drove the ball down to the SHU 31-yard line on the next drive before Trenton Morrow (Norwalk, Ohio) picked off a pass from Jordan Lawton in the endzone. Morrow returned the ball 17 yards before Sean Galliger hit him on his blindside, forcing a fumble which would be recovered by ONU at the SHU 17. The Saints defense would hold and force the Tigers to settle for a 29-yard field goal with 10:39 remaining in the first half.

Neither team was able to score for the remainder of the half and the Saints would take a 7-3 lead into the locker room at the intermission.

Olivet Nazarene would cut the SHU lead to just one point after hitting a 25-yard field goal in its first drive of the second half. The three-point play capped a long, 16-play, 81-yard drive that ate the first 9:01 of the third quarter. The Siena Heights offense sputtered in its first drive of the half, going three-and-out. The Tigers took advantage and drove the ball 42 yards in six plays to crack the goal line for the first time in the game and take a 12-7 lead with 46 seconds left in the third. ONU attempted a two-point conversion, but Lawton's pass was incomplete and the Tiger advantage stayed at five points.

The Saints reclaimed the lead when Jared Jordan (Grosse Point Woods, Mich.) capped a six-play, 20-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the score at 13-12, SHU. That drive was sparked by a Logan Smith (Liberty Center, Ohio) tackle on a punt return that forced an ONU fumble that was recovered by Kole Murlin (Celina, Ohio) at the Olivet Nazarene 20-yard line. Following the touchdown, The Saints elected for the two-point conversion but Knecht's pass to Pianki Abdul-Hakiym (Detroit, Mich.) was incomplete.

On the Tiger's next drive, Lawton would rush for five yards before Wyatt Gardocki (Taylor, Mich.) would separate him from the ball and Griffin Sobol would dive on it for the Saints at the ONU 13. Three plays later, Kaleb Jefferson (Columbus, Ohio) scored on an 11-yard rush to give Siena its largest lead of the game, 19-12, with 2:39 left to play in regulation. Secchi would increase the lead to eight points following the successful extra-point attempt.

Olivet Nazarene punched it into the endzone with 1:26 left in the game to cut the Saint lead to two points, but the Tigers would fail the to knot things up after Lawton's pass fell incomplete on the two-point conversion attempt. With no timeouts remaining, ONU was forced to try an onside kick, but the ball was touched early by a Tiger kickoff team player and SHU was awarded the ball at the ONU 49. Two kneel-downs later and the clock hit zeros.

TOP SAINTS

Offense

• Knecht was 11-14 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown.

• Jordan rushed 15 times for 44 yards while scoring once.

Kaleb Jefferson scored once on nine carries.

• Abdul-Hakiym and T. Brown each caught five passes. Brown scored once while Abdul-Hakiym led the Saints with 62 receiving yards.

Defense

• Seven of Stalworth's tackles were solo on his way to leading the team in tackles.

• Sobol finished with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Gabe Callery () had 10 tackles, one for loss.

• Morrow finished with five tackles and two picks in the game.

THE OPPOSITION

Offense

• Lawton finished 19-26 for 141 yards through the air. He passed for two touchdowns and was picked twice.

• Jayvion Daniels rushed 18 times for 74 yards.

• Scott Graziano had both touchdown catches for the Tigers.

Defense

• Jason Freeman led ONU with nine tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one sack.

UP NEXT

The Saints host Robert Morris (Ill.) next Saturday, September 14. The game scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., EDT.